In the aftermath of the US Capitol attacks, critics dissected the security response – a failure to predict leading to a sluggish, reactive response. And that’s often how we review incidents of civil unrest, through the prism of security operations. But we might be missing something crucial by this limited focus – namely the role of crisis management in securing key assets.
Just last month, there were five named storms in the Atlantic all at once – a rarity last seen in the early 1970s. Nor is the Atlantic the only hotspot for storm activity. The interim Royal Commission investigation into last season’s bushfires also forecasted increasingly “erratic” storms hitting Australia.
For crisis leaders battered by COVID-19 yet still in the path of surging storms, it’s not only time to dust off your severe weather preparedness plans but also to get acquainted with the Incident Command System (ICS).
In this modern, heavily mediatized age, we’ve become painfully familiar with the most common, crisis communications gaffes: the public announcements that are quickly back tracked; the press conferences more notable for the (mis)behavior of officials than the content of the statements made; and the live interviews of angry families deriding a lack of candor and communication from officials.
Eighty-four percent of organisations have a crisis management plan in place according to Deloitte’s global crisis survey, “Stronger, fitter, better.” Unfortunately, they don’t test those plans regularly.
Everywhere you turn, disruptive critical events are in the news – so too, the companies they affect. Just look at the Forrester report, Take A Unified Approach To Critical Event Management: the study finds that 100 percent – yes, you read that right – of companies surveyed had experienced a critical event in the last two years. That’s not even the full extent of it. Many of those companies actually dealt with multiple incidents during that time frame: the average was four, discrete critical events in a two-year period.
By now, we know the grizzly details of the March 15 terror attacks at the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, the deadliest mass shooting incident in New Zealand history. All told, fifty people were killed, and scores injured at the hands of a self-described white supremacist.
By now, most know at least the outlines of the story. In October 2018, Lion Air Flight 670 crashed into the Java Sea on a domestic route from Jakarta to Pangkal Pinang in Indonesia. All 189 passengers and crew on board were killed. Weeks later, engine failure forced a Norwegian Air Shuttle flight to make an emergency landing in Iran. And more recently, on March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed just minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on its way to Nairobi, Kenya. As in the case of the Lion Air crash, all 150-plus passengers and crew on board perished. The common factor between the seemingly isolated incidents? The aircraft in all three flights belonged to a relatively new line of planes: the Boeing 737 Max 8.
We’ve said it time and again, but comprehensive, crisis management planning, while essential, is only the first step towards crisis preparedness. No matter how brilliant, dynamic, or intuitive your crisis plan is, when the time comes to execute, staff still needs to be comfortable performing assigned tasks. And that entails, regular training in crisis-like conditions. How, then, to create those conditions?
When compliance aims drive your crisis planning, they do so to your detriment. I know, sounds a little counter-intuitive, especially when regulators mandate that businesses prepare emergency plans for the workplace.